Something that has always fascinated me about soap operas is what Feuer identified as “no action [being] irreversible” (p. 15). I think this feature of nothing being ‘irreversible’ is what gives soap operas “’an indefinitely expandable middle’” (p.12). There is no need to come up with a conclusion or ever end an action because it can always be returned to; even death is not final in a soap opera (or in network television from time to time; recall dead Denny making a ghost love with Izzie on Grey’s Anatomy).
I’m interested in discussing further the ideas brought up in the piece about the issue with sitcoms “forc[ing] a false sense of social integration by the end of each episode” (p. 15). I think it’s noteworthy to consider soap operas as an alternative to sitcoms that are cable of tackling ideas, though maybe less overtly, over a longer period of time and without the constraints of needing to box up a perfect ending or closure to the idea. The lack of resolve that occurs in melodramas, particularly in soap operas, enables soap operas to address large issues without those issues becoming permanent markers on the characters, themes, or even direction of the show. I think the concept of ambivalence generated by sitcoms like All in the Family and even more contemporary shows like Black-ish is what I have the most difficult time reconciling. Their format demands that a conclusion be reached about any particular issue instead of demanding to address the ongoing-ness of issues, particularly those issues related to race, gender, and class. It’s troublesome that people during any point in time were cheering for Archie Bunker for President. Similarly it’s also troubling that in Black-ish, color is being seen and viewed as “flava” (as discussed last week) or a unique style that can be sprinkled on or added to (or removed from) something as necessary. When Andre is made the “Urban” vice president, he’s the only one upset—he’s the only one who sees his self-identity instead of his talents or skills being exploited for the capital gain of the company he works for. While soap operas don’t necessarily provide less ambivalence than sitcoms to these larger issues, the fact that they don’t require conclusions does leave them more open to exploring such issues more thoroughly and frequently.
On a bit of a different note, while I was reading this particular piece I was trying to think of why I like even like soap operas and Feuer brings up this critic’s idea about soaps reinforcing bourgeois norms, specifically that “the prime-time soaps confirm the suspicion that great wealth and power are predicated on sin, and, even more satisfying, don’t buy happiness anyway” (p.15). I have to admit, this really hit the nail on the head when I thought about why I like watching so much Real Housewives or even spin-offs like Vanderpump Rules; although these particular shows are “reality” television, there is a certain superiority that one begins to feel when watching the lives of others be sloppy, back-handed, and overly-dramatic. This kind of touches back on our ideas about television promoting a self-regulated citizen who can be ok with their basic cable package because having more channels won’t bring them extra happiness anyway.